One of the biggest decisions any mom-to-be has to make is her birth plan and where she wants to deliver her baby. For some, home birth is a given, while others have always seen themselves giving birth in a hospital. But more and more, women are looking to have a natural, medical intervention-free delivery at a hospital, or "natural hospital birth."
"Women may be comfortable having a home birth, but maybe their partner is or their mother isn't," explains midwife Kristin Mallon, C.N.M. "And a lot of women risk out of having a home birth for various reasons, like they get gestational diabetes or have high blood-pressure. Home birth is really only for the lowest risk women, so other women, who are low-risk but not the lowest risk, can still have that home-like birth they want in a hospital setting."
Here, 7 steps women can take to plan and have their own natural hospital birth experience ...
- Find the right health care provider. Mallon recommends women look for a provider whose beliefs and practice are aligned with your philosophy and desire to have a natural hospital birth. "Certain providers maybe want to induce right away, they want to get pitocin, an epidural," she says. She advises looking into stats like a provider's C-section, induction, and epidural rates to gauge how "medically oriented" they are.
- Take a tour of the facility. Expectant moms would do well to check out the hospital they're interested in and finding out what medical interventions, such as having an I.V., continuous fetal monitoring, the facility considers optional vs. mandatory, recommends Mallon. There may be room for negotiation or not, depending on the hospital.
- Find a birth assistant or doula. While some facilities may have birth assistants, birth coaches, or doulas on staff, others may not, and a woman will want to ask if she can bring her own in during her labor. "Someone who can advocate for them on the day of helps to create that home-like environment," Mallon notes. "Women lose their voice a little bit when they're vulnerable in labor, and they rely on their birth team to bring forward what they want."
- Labor at home for as long as possible. Mallon recommends women "try to labor at home at the beginning, and then at some point, when they're comfortable, transferring to the hospital," which will help her avoid inductions, monitoring, and other medical interventions.
- Wear your own clothes. "You feel less like a patient, because you're not wearing a hospital gown," Mallon explains. "There are different online stores that sell birthing dresses -- as opposed to a hospital gown -- that have holes to breastfeed, and if you do decide to get an epidural, it's open in the back." You could also bring cozy slippers or a robe.
- Bring items from home. Pillows, blankets, a yoga ball, important, inspirational photos, drawings from loved ones, mementos, electric candles to replace the fluorescent lights of the hospital, and your iPod with its speaker can help set a more comfortable, familiar, home-like tone at the hospital. "Snacks are a really good thing to bring, too, because if you were home, you would be eating," Mallon says. "And any provider that supports natural hospital birth is going to let you snack."
- During the recovery, room-in with the baby. Mallon says women can get a more a home birth-like experience by having the baby stay in the room with them and "taking ownership right away of ... taking care of the baby, changing the diapers, and feeding and burping."
What else do you think women can do to have a home-like hospital birth?
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